I have talked about being aware of our surroundings many times before but have come across some very interesting thoughts on the subject in The Survivors Club by Ben Sherwood. Inattentional blindness is a phenomena that has cost may people a lot of heartache, pain and even death. Go to this link and take the test before reading on:

This is a video that has two groups of people passing basketballs. You are supposed to count the number of passes that the people in white make during the video. More than half of those watching the video and counting don’t notice that a person in a gorilla suit walks right through the video. Inattentional blindness. How can you miss a gorilla? Another test ran by Professor Richard Wiseman asks people to count the number of photos in a newspaper. More than half of those counting don’t see the message in giant letters on the second page that say STOP COUNTING, THERE ARE 43 PHOTOS IN THIS PAPER or the just as large type STOP COUNTING, TELL THE EXPERIMENTER YOU HAVE SEEN THIS AND WIN $250!

Our brains can get on task and not notice anything else…like a gorilla walking across the room. Unusual, out of place (and even dangerous) objects do not automatically capture our attention. One reason is that our eyes are made to only see high resolution within 2 degrees of their focal point. No matter how good our eyesight is most of our surroundings are out of focus. We have the illusion that we see everything in high def because our eyes move three or four times a second to give us the impression that we are seeing everything clearly. At any given time we are glimpsing a tiny slice of reality.

As if this doesn’t already put us at a major disadvantage when it comes to our personal safety we tend to put ourselves even further behind the eight ball with the goofy things we do. The cell phone may have well been created by criminals. It certainly gets our attention away from our surroundings. The following youtube hit is of a woman walking into a fountain while texting:

When we are out in public why do we think we have to text? When was the last time you sent a really important text? You have no idea what is going on around you or even where you are while doing this!

Every now and then in a restaurant I notice that I took the time to sit facing the front door, back to a wall, looked for exits, looked for things I can use as a weapon, etc. and then, when the food gets there, I find myself looking down at my plate while I am eating. Dumb! Keep looking around…know who is coming in that door at all times!

The worst? New lovers! They are so enraptured looking into each others eyes that a gang fight could be going on around them and they wouldn’t notice! In classes I see one big thing that makes us quit looking around and observing…pain. I had a law enforcement officer in class once get hit in the nose. It wasn’t broken or bleeding but he fell on the ground and turtled up. I went off on him! I told him it’s just a smack in the nose and that he wasn‘t dying! I then said “While you are acting like you are dying the bad guy on the street is taking your gun and making sure it isn’t just acting!!” He got ticked and quit after that but it’s my job to make people safe and point out stupid things that can get them hurt! Unless we are unconscious there is never a reason to bury our heads and quit looking around.

Be aware. Keep your head on a swivel. Realize where you are and what can go wrong at all times. Above all…BE SAFE!


U. S. Marine pilot recruits have a course in Miramar, California that they must get through to be pilots. It is called the Aviation Survival Training Center. They take men and women barely out of high school with no prior experience at surviving the unimaginable and mold them into survivors and warriors. While at this training center:
-They have the pilot put on full flight gear and tread water…for a long time, as long as it takes to break them. This readies the pilot to stay alive in the open water when they ditch…for as long as it takes to be rescued.
-They have the pilot submerge, swim to a door with several types of handles that they may find in an aircraft, open the door and get through it before they can surface. When they do it right they get to do it again with blackout goggles.
-They whip them across a pool with pulleys and wires dragging and dipping them in the water. This simulates a parachute dragging the pilot across the ocean.
-They yank the pilot up a cable and drench them with the most powerful showerheads you can imagine to simulate rescue helicopter rotor blasts.
-They strap the pilot into a chair hanging on a crane that is then crashed into the pool where it flips over. The pilot must get himself unstrapped and to the surface. This simulates ditching their plane into the ocean.

This training imitates, as closely as they can, what the pilot will actually be facing in bail out and crash situations. They are trying to show the pilot what it will really be like, adding stress, exhaustion and stacking the odds against them. This training has saved countless lives. This is training to survive.

In Krav Maga we train regular citizens for what will, in all likelihood, be the worst incident that they will go through in their lives. When the crap hits the fan and real world violence finds our students we better have given them the best, most realistic training that we possibly can. Training is blueprints and plans, nothing more. We cannot possibly replicate the stress, exhaustion and adrenaline dump that real world violence will produce…but we try. In our class we push people to exhaustion. We drill “to attack” over and over so that it becomes our flinch reaction. We do drills at the end of class that represent multi attackers and we go on with this drill until they can hardly continue…but they find a way to. We don’t just work on handgun defenses with an “attacker” standing like a statue but we have him cuss, punch, kick and beat on the person they are working with to simulate a real scumbag.

When we test in Krav Maga we test harder than any other system I have ever seen. We push people to and beyond their breaking point and exhaust them until they can barely stand. This is something else we picked up from the way the military trains. Rangers, for example, are trained so long and hard, with no sleep and a lot of physical discomfort, that many who finally get into combat claim combat is easier than the training. We want, if ever our students are attacked, for them to think beating down a punk with a knife was easy compared to what they went through in their last test. This makes people safer!

As I’ve said so many times before…if you aren’t training with realism and using exhaustion and stress drills in your classes you are teaching self defense techniques, not self defense. There is a difference! BE SAFE!


At the end of every one of our Krav Maga classes at our gym we run “hell drills”. They only last about 1 minute but they are the most important thing that we do for self defense. In these drills we do things like a round of punching mitts our hardest, when the instructor yells “switch” we sprint to the other side of the room where we knee our hardest and then sprint back on command to punch again, over and over. Members generally say they hate them…with a smile on their face. I have never seen another system or martial art that incorporates this kind of training. Why do we do those “damned drills“?
-They mimic a fight! Members are always amazed that the drill is only a minute, it seems like five. It is hard to believe that you can get that worn out in one minute. We tell them this is like the fight, the stress and all out work in a fight will have them huffing and puffing within seconds.
-They get you into fighting shape! Do these for just a few weeks and they start getting easier, you get into much better fighting shape. We tell our members to let the bad guy be the one huffing and puffing after 15 seconds….as we go on to whup his ass!
-Not just technique but reality! If you are only training techniques you have no idea how they will work under stress and exhaustion. Guess what? In real world violence there is a lot of both!!
-They build attitude! After you have done a ton of these drills you know you can push on through exhaustion, pain, puking, etc. You will not stop when it counts because you have been trained to keep going.
-They mindset for us! If you ever get into a 2 on 1 confrontation or another bad situation you will have the “been there, done that” feeling. You will have trained for that very situation. You have trained to go forward, be brutal and never quit! This eliminates the “freeze” and will come out of us without thinking about it. That is good training!!

If you are teaching self defense without these type of drills you are not teaching self defense. You are teaching self defense techniques. There is a big difference! BE SAFE!


We who teach self defense do a great job with techniques. We do seminars, classes, videos, etc. on techniques to get out of chokes, knife attacks, bear hugs, etc. but what we should be spending a lot more time on is avoiding situations where we have to use such techniques. Some of my favorite quotes on the subject:
“Self defense is a very short list of techniques and tactics that might get us out alive when we’re already screwed”
“Self defense is recovery from stupidity or bad luck.”
“No intelligent man has ever lost a fight to someone who says ‘I am going to kick your ass.”
What I am saying is that self defense is “I must do something now because your hands are on me.” Self protection is “you were in my space so I whacked you.” Self defense is walking into a bar and having to fight your way out later. Self Protection is walking into a bar, seeing some rough looking characters and leaving to go to another bar. Self defense is getting into a fist fight at the side of the road with a road raging idiot. Self protection is having your doors locked, windows up, ignoring the cussing and threats and driving off.
The quote above about not ever losing a fight to someone who says “I’m going to kick your ass” makes a valid point. Being hit or stabbed before you know the attacker is there is violence. Having someone telling us what they are going to do is the threat of violence. The threat of violence is a gift. The gift of time. We should already be moving or attacking as they are threatening.
Being aware of our surroundings, keeping our head on a swivel, sitting with backs to walls facing the door, paying attention to where exits are, always looking around for what can be used as a weapon, etc. will save more from harm than self defense techniques. Even when you win the fight you generally don’t end up unscathed. The old quote “Don’t go to stupid places with stupid people to do stupid things” should be talked about in our classes as much as any techniques are taught.
I got to talk with a fascinating man last weekend. He had been in prison for 18 years before turning his life around. His friends were talking about how he has eyes in the back of his head, that he sees potential threats before anyone else. I said “that is such a gift”. He corrected me and said “that’s a lot of practice! In prison you develop eyes in the back of your head or you don’t survive!” I thought that was awesome. It showed me that super vigilance can be learned. How many of our students could be spared future tragedy if we help develop this ability in them? BE SAFE!